Norwell will head into the 2019-2020 season as coach Mike McBride‘s fourth in charge of the program with his footprint now fully engrained. The group competed in the Northeast 8 last year, losing in conference only to East Noble and Huntington North, who each won 20-plus games.
At the forefront of Norwell’s offense again is Will Geiger. Now a senior, Geiger broke out during his freshman season and never really looked back. He averaged 19 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. A blue collar player, Geiger has been a workhorse inside and around the rim, but has attempted to expand his game more into the midrange and even a little bit beyond the arc.
“You can almost describe him as a double double machine. I think you are going to continue to see that, I just think you are going to see some decisions made a little bit better,” McBride said of Geiger.
Back too will be Drew Federspiel, Connor Torson and Eli Riley, who all spent a lot of time on the court last season. Federspiel and Torson are both long wings who have started for three seasons. Torson was a second team All-NE8 player a season ago and is expected to take a big step forward scoring the basketball. Federspiel will be big in rebounding behind Geiger and can also create matchup problems with his ability to get to the rim from the perimeter.
Riley was a clutch shooter for the Knights in 2018-2019, hitting 34 percent of his shots from deep. As a junior, he is coming off a pretty successful year on the football field as Norwell’s quarterback.
“We’ve obviously got a solid group of returners so there is high expectations form that stand point,” McBride said. “We’ve got a lot of excitement with our younger kids coming in as well so I feel like we have an expectations that we’ve been knocking on the door of the NE8, we’ve been kind of in that upper half. Now I would think that our guys are going to be hungry to try to take that next step forward in our conference and in Sectional as well.”
Those expectations are critical to McBride in cultivating some of the young kids coming in, including their freshman class. McBride anticipates that there will be some freshmen that will be able to compete for some playing time to contribute. McBride says though that the challenge will come in blending some talented young kids with a strong of core of returning, experienced players to develop chemistry.
Among those young kids that could contribute are sharpshooting Luke McBride, strong athlete John Colbert and Lleyton Bailey, a feisty guard that competes hard. Brody Bolyn and Luke Graft are two names that also come up as possible contributors and junior Jared Conrad is up off the junior varsity.
“It is hard to talk too much about kids we haven’t seen do anything on Friday night yet, but they certainly have talent and we will have to see how they progress,” Mike McBride said.
McBride feels that the team has prepared to tackle some matchup challenges better by playing a summer schedule of a lot of bigger and more athletic teams than they have in the past. They are also scheduled to play six SAC schools, with a seventh SAC opponent possible in the Mishawaka Marian shootout.
The Knights’ ability to be competitive last season came with a certain measure of athleticism involved. But once that Sectional round came about, there were able to be outpaced by Marion. The Giants are now gone from Norwell’s sectional, but the Knights know they still have to be able to play at a high level and learn from losses in their conference, and of course that season ender against Marion.
“Just being able to play at a little bit of a quicker pace and making that adjustment; the thing they did a good job of was creating situations where we had to rush a little bit,” McBride said of the Marion game. “We have to now be able to hopefully get into that role where we can be that team that can make someone else rush a little bit and get a little bit uncomfortable.”
This is the first fully Mike McBride led group as the senior class started off with him as freshmen after he moved over from Churubusco. Norwell has had a modicum of success in the past, but certainly is more built for this season, experience wise, than any other. McBride has had the time to mold this group in his coaching style and that is why they are expected to thrive with six and maybe seven SAC games on their schedule, the most of any NE8 team.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
While Geiger is good and he has a lot of experience with him amongst Riley, Torson and Federspiel, there are still a decent amount of inexperienced pieces that will have to prove themselves. Yet Norwell will still be very much in the thick of the NE8 race.
JAN. 11 VERSUS LEO
This will be just the second conference game for the Knights, but they should be well tested by this point with three SAC games and the Mishawaka Marian Tournament over and done with. While other games may be interesting on the inside, this one will test Norwell’s perimeter play. They have some long guards that could make things interesting for Leo’s quality shooters.
Any game in the NE8 is crucial as a loss may end your conference hopes, but a lot will still actually be learned about Norwell by the time we get to this one.
PLAYER TO WATCH
LUKE MCBRIDE, FRESHMAN
While his coach/dad will by coy on Luke because he hasn’t played an actual high school basketball game yet, McBride did play well this summer. In appearances with the Knights, he shot the ball poised and consistently against the likes of Homestead and others. So while he can’t be anointed by stretch, McBride is a freshman that could end up being a quality playmaker on the perimeter.